Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 326 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Tomás, and he wrote:
My dream in organ playing is to play impressive songs with lots of stops. I would like to change them (the stops) during the song playing.
V: So, that’s probably a very big sound when lots of stops will be playing. Don’t you think, Ausra? It seems like Tomás likes Tutti.
V: What about you? Do you like, Tutti?
A: Well, sometimes.
V: Not all the time.
A: Not always, yes.
V: Would you wish if our organ had lots of stops and I would play with all of them at home?
A: Oh, no! I don’t! No, that sound would kill us both. I’m glad we have only two stops. That’s plenty in a room.
V: Piano and Pianissimo!
V: Good. So, Tomás… I don’t know if it’s a problem for him or just a dream. Right? What’s your opinion, Ausra? What’s stopping him from playing impressive songs with “lots of stops” in his words.
A: Well, you know, because he talks about songs, so I imagine he is talking about secular music. Yes? And, since most of the organs are located in churches, this might be a problem. Not every church allows you to play secular songs with the Tutti registration.
V: I’m not sure if it’s secular things he’s referring to, because sometimes people come to the organ from a different world, and we live in a world with pop music influences all the time: radio, Internet, YouTube, even TV, and what you hear there, of course, are songs, most of the time.
A: Do you think they would work well on the organ?
V: But, maybe he doesn’t mean songs, per se, but just music. Maybe it could be just compositions for organ solo, but he doesn’t know how to refer to them, because all he knows is songs.
A: That way, it seems that he needs a little bit of music history and music theory.
V: Right, this foundation education.
V: Yes. What’s the best way to start? What’s step number 1 in this? To pick up a book, and read about organ history, or music history in general?
A: Well, in order to suggest something, I would need to know more about him, in order to suggest something useful. I don’t get enough information from a letter like this.
V: Me, too. It’s hard to guess what’s on his mind and what’s his background.
A: Yes, and as he says, he would like to change the stops during song playing. So, he talks about registration changes.
V: You know, maybe after hearing our answer, he could write us back and explain a little bit more about himself.
A: Sure! Do you think it’s the biggest challenge to change stops during playing?
V: If you are such a virtuoso that you could play anything you’d like, and the only thing that is left to learn is changing registration, then yes. But, it seems to me, that there are so many more things that he’s not even aware of, right?
A: I know, because stop changes are the least to worry about, I would say.
V: When you start playing the organ, you have a preliminary idea, probably. Why have you started? What interests you? Maybe it’s a specific period of music, maybe it’s a specific country, maybe it’s a specific genre. It could be toccatas. And when you start playing them, you sort of suddenly discover there is a completely unknown world to you that little by little starts to reveal itself. Have you ever played computer games, Ausra?
A: Yes, I had actually. Once.
V: What kind of game was it?
A: It was that “The Lord of the Rings.”
V: Oh, yeah!
A: I have never finished it.
V: Neither have I, of course! Maybe we should finish it!
A: I don’t think we are gifted enough to play computer games.
V: Right. There is an entire subculture of gamers on the Internet, who are playing, and making videos, and making blog posts about that, and sharing. It’s so fascinating! But, the reason I’m mentioning computer games, is I once also played a game where you have to come to a certain enemy territory, like in Medieval times. You have to fight battles with orcs, and dragons, and snakes, and wizards, and you have special skills, special armor, and special weapons, and you have only limited amounts of lives, of course, and the more treasures and points and probably tasks you do correctly on that game, the more resources you can get to prolong your life and become more powerful. But, the reason I’m mentioning this, Ausra, is that it’s similar to an organ world, too. When a person comes to the organ, he knows nothing. So, when you start this game I’m talking about, it’s called “Heroes,” actually. Remember, your brother used to play it during the nights.
A: Yes! I remember that. And, when we asked him why he’s doing that, he said it was because he’s a surgeon, so he said, “If I can do surgeries sometimes through the night, then why can’t I play a computer game, too!” So…
V: That was a long time ago!
A: Yes, and I’m glad he stopped in time, and not get addicted to it.
V: Right. So, when you start playing this game, everything on the map is dark. You have a map in the corner of that screen of your territory, and it’s dark when you start. But once you move your mouse and you travel a little bit, it becomes green. You know, this territory is yours. Maybe you encounter an enemy, you defeat that enemy, maybe more territory becomes yours and more discoveries await you, sort of. And more places in that foreign land become green. It reminds me of the organ world, too. You know, the more you play, the more you are curious about it, the more you look it up, the more you read, the more you listen to, actually, also, you discover new things and become immersed, like in any unfamiliar art. What are you thoughts about that, Ausra?
A: Yes, I think you’re really very right. I don’t know if I like your comparison so much, but it might work for some.
V: You don’t think our listeners are gamers?
A: I think not!
V: Some of them might be, you know?
A: Well, you never know!
V: Maybe one or two will write about that after this conversation.
A: Well, you know, if you play a lot of computer games, you don’t have time to practice organ.
V: That’s why I stopped playing these Lord of the Rings games, because it’s really addictive. But, as you say, it doesn’t lead anywhere. Of course, nowadays, there is some financial aspect to it, too. You could play in competitions and contests, and defeat the more virtual enemies and even earn some money!
A: I would rather earn my money in other ways.
V: Such as?
A: Teaching music theory, harmony, solfege, playing organ, teaching organ…
V: Is that it? Or are there any other ways you would like to earn money?
A: Well, I earn a little bit by drawing comics.
V: Drawing comics. Me, too! Nice. So, times are changing, and Tomás needs to immerse himself more into the organ world, I think.
V: Starting from the foundations—from the basics. But if he buys a book or pics up a book on organ history from the library, it might become really too complex for him at first.
A: Could be. And, you know, my suggestion would be if he takes any song and starts to play it, to learn to play it, I wouldn’t suggest him to play loud at the beginning. You need, really, to learn the music first, and then to play it loudly.
V: Right. Remember, we had this student at UNL who only played loudly.
A: Yes! We’ve already talked about it, I think, some while ago. And he wanted to play these massive pieces and play loud and fast, but I think finally he…
V: He gave up….
A: He gave up organ, because our professors were too good for him, because they did not allow him to play….well, let’s say….just somehow. They wanted him to play well, and to work on those details in that piece, and learn about structure and to play it….
V: Step by step
A: Yes, and with knowledge, not just somehow, loud and fast. And, I don’t think he could take it.
V: If you had such a student, how would you teach him so that he wouldn’t quit?
V: Of course, you had an example of George Ritchie and Quentin Faulkner, right? This was an excellent example. But, after that example, he quit.
A: Well, I don’t know. Maybe if somebody cannot comprehend what is really beneficial for him or her, maybe it’s better to stop playing organ, or to find another professional to teach you, if you don’t trust, you know? Because when you teach somebody, you have to be confident with each other. You need to trust each other. If there is not that confidence between you and your pupil, and no trust, I don’t think it’s leading anywhere.
V: It’s a waste of time.
V: A waste of time of the student, and a waste of time of the teacher, too. And, as you say, maybe that person could find a person that he trusts.
A: Sure, because otherwise, I just don’t see how it would work out.
V: Maybe there are people who would teach such a person to play loud and fast starting from Reubke or Widor...
A: I highly doubt it!
V: ...right from the start
A: I highly doubt it!
V: Maybe! Maybe, for really good money, you know?
A: Well, I don’t think you can buy anything with money. Don’t you think so?
V: You could buy cake! We just had cake, Ausra, remember?
A: Well, but that’s just a cake.
V: Okay, guys, I think I’ll have some more cake after this conversation, won’t you Ausra?
A: Probably not.
V: Alright. And please remember, keep sending us your questions; we love helping you grow. And Remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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